The stigma of public relations
What is public relations? If you are on this website, it is probably a question you have asked yourself numerous times. The answer can be as blatant as “the professional maintenance of a favorable public image,” as the Oxford Dictionary defines it.
PR is sometimes related to greedy foul-play devoted to making a company look good merely on the surface. Burghardt Tenderich, a Professor of Practice and Associate Director at the USC Center for Public Relations, believes that the negative reputation PR holds is well-deserved. “There are too many practitioners out there who rather than focusing on strategy and critical thinking, focus on stunts, publicity or unethical behavior,” said Tenderich. “The profession still has a lot of growing up to do.”
Tenderich got his start at the University of Munich, where his very first lecture revolved around the propaganda by the Nazis leading up to World War II. “I realized the power of communication and that you, as a human being, have that choice to put it to good use or bad use,” he expressed. As an educator, he reminds students that creating and maintaining relationships through communication is an extremely powerful thing. Contrary to popular belief, this profession is not just about publicity stunts or earning a favorable image by carefully selecting the right words. It is about giving the brand a voice and teaching them how to listen to their publics. There is no relationship without communication. A fact that is sometimes lost in today’s day and age.
Kaitlin Egan is a Group Manager overseeing the Hospitality Department at Crowe PR. Her career started with a passion for journalism before falling into a PR internship. “To be honest, when I started taking public relations classes or even started my PR internship, I didn’t really know what public relations was,” Egan explained. This let Egan grow into and with the modern world of the industry. New technology has changed the meaning of the profession, yet one thing remains the same; communication. “This year has been the year of crisis communications,” she comments. The recent climate has pushed for digital enhancement. Now more than ever, public relations revolves around media and media relations. “We’ve had to form a social media side of PR where we incorporate social media into our services because it is something that our clients and other brands are looking for and they need help with.”
Most would argue that it is crucial for this profession to grow and form with the developing world. But does that mean it should completely change? Some agencies are straying away from the term public relations because of the stigma that comes along with it. We now have marketing agencies and “integrated” agencies because some do not want to be labeled as publicists.
Although there are warnings about the changing climate, PR practitioners remain the backbone of a brand’s image and reputation. While the occupation has expanded into many branches that offer great opportunities, it is important to remember the essence of public relations: building meaningful and transparent relationships between organizations and the public on whom their success or failure depends.
By Bobbie Resnik
Bobbie is a senior at San Diego State University studying Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations. She will graduate with a double major in Psychology and Journalism. After graduation, she wishes to pursue a career in event planning and social media.